Resilience and connection: rural women in WA

  • Hands and tea cups of the women’s groups that Anita runs
  • A dirt road running straight in the distance of the Stirling Range National Park
  • Anita is pictured next to the Amity Health car
Amity Health
Anita Penny,
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health, Wellbeing and Resiliency Coordinator, Great Southern region

If I could sum up country women in one word, it would be ‘resilient’.

As a rural woman, I love that I can spend time in the bush walking the dog, fix a gate, clean the house and bake a cake, all in one morning before work! We see the rawness of life: birth, death, love and pain, and everything in between.

My role with Amity Health as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health, wellbeing and resiliency coordinator, running Yorgas (women’s) groups, allows me to think about what keeps women strong on the inside as we map our various ways through life.

I moved to the country almost 20 years ago from an inner-city life in Perth, Western Australia (WA). I moved near to where my grandparents had lived and where I recalled happy memories. My transition from city chick to country girl happened over time – learning to mow the grass, trying to cut wood, owning a red kelpie, wearing out pairs of gum boots and learning to negotiate the complexities of rural life.

In that time there have been huge changes to my life, my health and my wellbeing – some positive and some challenging. What is it that keeps us trying, explaining and pushing through to get to where we want to go?

As rural women we strive for connections. We work hard to maintain connections to our home, to our families, to our mind, to our faith, to our bodies and health, to our friends and to the communities we live in. All these connections seem to take more time, effort and purposefulness when we live in the country. We cover hundreds of kilometres driving, hours waiting and wondering, and sometimes we get to where we thought we needed to be only to see that it isn’t the right place, and we have to turn around.

We try to explain our needs; sometimes we are not heard and feel more isolated and frustrated. But when we can share our journeys, tears, frustrations, joys, laughter and hopes with others, we feel connected. I see that when we are connected, we feel strong within ourselves.

Amity health logoIn my Amity Health role, I help women in each community I work in to form connections. Our Yorgas groups allow women to meet, yarn, share a meal, be creative, practice self-care or care for others, connect to services, share our griefs, share our stories and support each other.

Amity Health receives government funding to run this program throughout the Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions of WA, connecting with and strengthening women, children and communities.

Amity Health is a not-for-profit organisation helping to fill gaps in rural communities, providing specialist care, health services, mental health counselling and support. These services support rural women and help us maintain our resilience and the connections we need to be strong for our families.

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